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AMERICAN MORNING

Oprah Winfrey Bombshell; President Obama Moves Closer to Decision on Afghanistan; Wal-Mart Shopper Faces Trial and Possible Prison Sentence; Could Fort Hood Incident Have Been Stopped?; Stimulus Jobs Tally Report in Doubt; Kirk Cameron Debunking Darwin's Theory of Evolution

Aired November 20, 2009 - 07:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to AMERICAN MORNING. We're coming up on 7:00 here in New York on this Friday. It's November 28. I'm Kiran Chetry.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. I'm John Roberts. Thanks for being with us, and here are the stories we'll be breaking down for you in the next 15 minutes.

It may be the ultimate oh, my God moment for millions of Oprah Winfrey fans. The queen of daytime talk expected to announce in just a few hours that she is pulling the plug on her talk show, so what lies ahead for one of the most powerful women in the world? Alina Cho on Oprah's next move.

CHETRY: What about America's future in Afghanistan? President Obama says he is close to a decision, so now that he is back in Washington and Afghanistan's President, Hamid Karzai, is officially in place. Where do things stand on the troop surge? We're live at the Pentagon.

ROBERTS: And the website set up to track the number of jobs created or saved by the economic stimulus program is said to be riddled with mistakes, mistakes like jobs created in congressional districts that don't exist. So, how did the administration get so many facts and figures wrong? We're live at the White House this morning.

CHETRY: We begin, though, with a bombshell from one of the wealthiest and most powerful women in America. We're talking about Oprah Winfrey here, the queen of daytime talk stepping down from her throne. In a few short hours she's expected to tell the world she is pulling the plug on her show in 2011.

For her fans, her syndicators, and the affiliates that carry her show, it's hard to grasp the concept of afternoons without Oprah. Alina Cho has followed Winfrey's career and she spent a lot of time with her. And Alina, the bottom line here is a lot of lives will be impacted by this decision. What is she moving onto?

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not the least of which is a whole generation. Generations of Americans who made a 4:00 p.m. appointment TV to watch Oprah. Guys, good morning. Oprah is expected to make announcement today on a special live show. It will happen at 10:00 a.m. eastern time, just about three hours from now. The last day of her show is slated for September 9, 2011. By then, she'll have been on the air for a full 25 seasons. That's a quarter century as the highest rated talk show -- clearly the end of an era.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: You get a car, you get a car!

CHO: She's as iconic as you can get. And for a show that started in Chicago with this in 1986.

WINFREY: Welcome to the very first national "Oprah Winfrey Show".

CHO: Along the way, she built an empire worth $2.5 billion, hosting some of our generation's biggest names, Hollywood, politicians, even other icons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the most exciting interview I had ever done, and certainly the most watched.

WINFREY: The queen even crowned some kings, giving us Dr. Phil.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's just calm down here.

CHO: And Dr. Oz, turning an appearance or mere mention on the show into a life-changing experience.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not a mere television personality. She's a brand, she's a destination.

CHO: But it was her connection to everyday people that took Oprah to the top, guiding viewers through life's challenges, and bearing her own for the world to see.

WINFREY: I am mad at myself. I am embarrassed. I can't believe I'm still talking about weight.

CHO: Her ups and downs went beyond just her weight and hair. There was an unexpected PR hit when the real reveal came on those free cars, a $7,000 tax bill.

Then there was the dirty work of picking up the million little pieces left behind by James Frey and a memoir that turned out to be mostly fiction.

WINFREY: It is difficult for me to talk to you, because I really feel duped. I feel duped.

CHO: When she endorsed then-candidate Obama, her popularity took a hit. But her candidate won.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How does it feel tonight? WINFREY: It feels like hope won.

CHO: And when she teamed up with the first family to bring the Olympics home to Chicago, Oprah's golden touch failed.

Yet, Oprah now leaves the daytime throne open. So from the woman who could be next in line...

ELLEN DEGENERES, TALK SHOW HOST: I don't think I could be here without her. I think she has blazed a trail that is -- she's an amazing woman.

(APPLAUSE)

She will always be the queen of daytime television, and she also says she's leaving me all of her money.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(LAUGHTER)

CHO: A $2.5 billion media empire? I'll take it.

So the big question is what will Oprah do next? For one, she's starting her own cable channel. Many of you know OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network will launch in 2011. Oprah is expected to appear on the channel, but just how much and in what capacity, guys, nobody knows.

One thing for sure, this has been huge for CBS over the years, which syndicates the show. ABC carries the show in many major markets. So huge for ratings, huge for viewers.

So again, the big question is, what will she do next? There has been some speculation she may take her show to the cable network which launches conveniently in the same year, 2011. But certainly she's remaining tightlipped about it, and so are representatives. So we'll have to wait and see. And knowing Oprah, whatever she does next will be big.

CHETRY: Of course. It will be fun to see what happens in the big space left at the 4:00 p.m. timeslot.

CHO: Yes, appointment TV. And, listen, a lot of people talk about what is Oprah's gift? She has so many -- she can do the fun, she can do the serious. But most of all, a lot of people say it's her common touch, her ability to relate to the everyday person and bring the serious and fun issues to the millions of viewers, 42 million a week, a huge reach.

CHETRY: Alina Cho, thank you.

CHO: You bet.

ROBERTS: Other stories new this morning, the commander of military forces protecting North America wants a review of the system protecting our skies from another 9/11 type of attack. "The New York Times" reports the issue is whether the price of keeping jet fighters, other aircraft and crews at the ready is still justified.

CHETRY: Health care showdown on Capitol Hill, a vote scheduled for tomorrow night. Sixty votes are needed to advance the bill toward a full debate. The Congressional Budget Office says that the 2,000- plus page bill will cost $850 billion over the next decade. Republicans are promising that they will block the legislation, which includes a public option.

ROBERTS: And Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the withdraw of U.S. forces from Iraq will stay on schedule and will not change, even if politics pushes back Iraqi elections that are scheduled for January. There are still more than 100,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, many of them are due to leave in the spring.

President Obama back in Washington this morning and returning to a big and still unanswered question -- what is the next step for Afghanistan?

The White House has said we're on the cusp of a landmark decision. So where do things stand? Our Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon for us this morning. And Barbara, a new attack in Afghanistan underscoring the tough choice that the president is facing.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, John, another suicide attack out in the western province in Afghanistan, several Afghans said to be killed in this attack.

Here in Washington, the troops, commanders getting anxious to hear a decision from the White House. Maybe just a bit of a hint. Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said yesterday that his prediction is that there will be a decision, in his words, "in the near future."

What we do know is here at the Pentagon, as always, they begin planning, and so they are planning on how they would get more troops quickly into land-locked Afghanistan, a land-locked country. It's a very tough proposition. Once the president makes a decision, they want to get moving.

Listen to what defense secretary Robert Gates had to say about all this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GATES: We do not have the same kind of transportation access to Afghanistan that we did in Iraq where we were able over a five-month period or so to bring in five brigade combat teams.

The ability of the receiving end to -- to receive significant quantities of equipment and people in a relatively short period of time is very different than the situation in Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP) STARR: In Iraq, you had existing air bases, you had airfields, you had military installations that U.S. troops could quickly go to and be ready to start conducting operations. It's a much different business in Afghanistan, as we know.

So still, John, the question -- is this decision from the White House going to come perhaps in early December, or are the troops awaiting a perhaps unwelcome Thanksgiving surprise? We're all waiting to see -- John.

ROBERTS: Barbara, American officials have made a big deal about the level of corruption in the Karzai government. The secretary of state was urging him to do something about it. He has said he'll have an anti-corruption commission in place.

Will the military, will the White House wait until they see progress on corruption before they send more troops into Afghanistan?

STARR: This is one of the big questions, because the White House is making clear that they want to see progress on this issue in Afghanistan, because progress on corruption and governance is eventually going to be the way home for U.S. troops. Afghanistan, they say, has to stand on its own two feet.

But Secretary Gates is making clear in his view that it's an evolutionary process, that they really can't hold one item hostage to the other, that there will have to be more troops in Afghanistan.

The indications are certainly leaning in that direction, and Afghanistan at the same time will have to work on corruption and governance. This may be a very long haul -- John.

ROBERTS: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon this morning. Barbara, thanks so much.

CHETRY: She jumped in front of the line at Wal-Mart, and now she's facing prison time. Police say the school teacher Heather Ellis kicked and cursed at officers as she was taken out of the store, and now she could be doing 15 years if found guilty.

The case will go to the jury today. And for the first time ever we saw surveillance video of the confrontation in court.

Our Gary Tuchman has both sides for us this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Watch this surveillance video outside a Wal-Mart store in Kenneth, Missouri. The person highlighted is a 21-year-old woman, and prosecutors say she is kicking a police officer, one of two cops they say she assaulted.

This is the same woman today, three years later, Heather Ellis, an African-American. The cops she's accused of hitting and kicking is white. Her supporters say she was assaulted by the cops. But if that happened, it's not seen on the video supplied by Wal-Mart. Her arrest has stirred up a racial hornets' nest in this tiny town.

It all started in the store. The video shows Heather Ellis' hand moving another customer's items back on the conveyor belt four times. Ellis says she wanted to check her items out, adding her cousin saved her spot. But many witnesses have testified she was cutting in line and was profane and rude.

Kay McDaniel was managing the story that night.

KAY MCDANIEL, FORMER ASSISTANT MANAGER, WAL-MART: I treated her like I would you or anybody else.

TUCHMAN: McDaniel took the stand in this trial, which could lead to up to 15 years in prison for Ellis. The Wal-Mart manager testified she told Ellis to stop saying the "f word" and to stop yelling and disturbing the customers. And then she told the jury this.

MCDANIEL: She looked at me and she told me I wasn't anything but a stupid, white, uneducated Wal-Mart employee, and she called Betsy an "old gray haired lady," the cashier. And that's when I said wait just a minute. I don't know you, and you don't know me.

TUCHMAN: Five police officers were involved in the arrest. One of them was Albert Fisher, who testified "She told me I was a stupid mother blanker." He added, "She let me know I didn't know who I was blanking with."

And then he says when he asked her name, she said "My name is Donald blanking Duck." When she said "If you try to arrest me, I'll kick your blanking blank," according to the cop, he arrested her, and he testified the fight was on.

He claims he was kicked many times as they brought her to the squad car, even before this point in the video. A second cop testified and said she hit him in the mouth.

But Heather Ellis' defense attorney is fighting back ferociously. Jurors now know that prosecution witness has pretrial meetings with the prosecutor. Ellis' defense attorney hinted they could have conveniently matched their stories because they were together during those meetings.

And he wonders why the police didn't independently investigate the surveillance tape, which he says left out many of the key moments of the encounter.

What's notable about this trial so far is there has been no mention of racism by either side inside the courtroom.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Heather Ellis had the opportunity of accepting a plea bargain in which she would have accepted responsibility for the crime but would have received no prison time. But she and her family chose not to accept it. The case is expected to go to the jury sometime on Friday.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Kenneth, Missouri.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Coming up now on 12 minutes after the hour. Ft. Hood, the massacre there, the subject of big hearings yesterday on the Senate Homeland Security Committee. We'll talk with one of the people who testified before that committee, security analyst Brian Jenkins coming up right after the break. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Military officials now confirm to CNN that a report on finding and weeding out radicalized members of the military does exist. In fact, the report was completed last year but has been classified.

CNN uncovered the document just as Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced a military-wide review to try to prevent another Ft. Hood- type tragedy. The question remains, if they already had a report, why the need for another?

In a CNN exclusive, we talked to Shannen Rossmiller, a security expert who contributed to the classified document that was completed last year, and she says that information could have prevented the Ft. Hood massacre.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHANNEN ROSSMILLER, INDEPENDENT CYBERTERRORISM ANALYST: The report was written from the military perspective and it was entitled "Radicalization of Members of the DOD." And what it was for was for them to have tools to look within their ranks to spot different criteria that showed signs and red flags of radicalization and how to spot those, identify them, and then from there be able to head the problem off. The Defense Department report was intended to prevent something like this, and it's -- it's just astonishing that this even had to happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: The report surfaced on the same day a former Army deputy chief of staff told a congressional panel that there are no military guidelines for dealing with radicalized service members.

Meantime, Senate lawmakers want some answers themselves amid the questions about missed warning signs and Nidal Hasan's connection to a radical imam. On Thursday, the Homeland Security Committee held the first hearings on the Fort Hood shooting, which several senators called a terrorist attack.

Brian Jenkins was among those who testified. He's a terrorism analyst and senior adviser for the Rand Corporation. Brian Jenkins is in Washington this morning. Brian, first, right off the top here, what do you make of what Shannen Rossmiller was saying, that there is this report that exists out there. They were looking into radicalization in the military, that she believes that this report could have prevented what happened at Fort Hood and didn't.

BRIAN JENKINS, SENIOR ADVISER, RAND CORPORATION: Well, it's really hard to say, because we have to wait the results of the whole inquiry. In many, many, cases, a lot of these clues that look very obvious in the rearview mirror are not so obvious when we're going forward.

If -- if Major Hasan had been a member of an ordinary military unit, that is, in working closely with fellow soldiers, I think some of these behavioral issues that have been described in the press would have been picked up. Instead, this was an individual psychiatrist working in a hospital setting and that may have made some of these troubling signs more difficult to recognize.

ROBERTS: But according to that memo that was uncovered by an NPR reporter, Daniel Zwerdling, the other day, at least someone, that was his direct supervisor at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, knew that there was something a bit amiss with him. His performance was bad. It was unprofessional. He was inappropriately talking about religion with some of his patients. Were those not warning signs that should have been heeded and at the very least prompted a conversation?

JENKINS: Probably -- again, we'll have to wait for the inquiry but probably there would have been some appropriate intervention, at least in connection with his particular performance. Now, that doesn't necessarily say that because an individual is not doing a good job that it's going to end up in the murders that we saw in Fort Hood.

It appears very, very much that Major Hasan's trajectory here would be something that we used to call going postal. That is, personal problems that ultimately lead to a murderous rampage directed against fellow workers, in this case, fellow soldiers.

ROBERTS: You know, there's also, Brian, the e-mail traffic between Major Hasan and Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical Islamic cleric who used to live in Falls Church, Virginia, not too far from where you are now, has his abode in Yemen. Contact between the two of them and ABC News has uncovered. It says the content of some of those e-mails, ABC News was told that Hasan said to the radical iman, quote, "I can't wait to join you in the afterlife." He also, according to ABC News asked, "When is jihad appropriate and whether it's permissible if there are innocents killed in a suicide attack."

If that's true, what does that tell you about what was going through Hasan's mind?

JENKINS: Well, I think we clearly have an individual that was troubled personally, that was engaging with extremist ideologies that both resonated with and reinforced his own anger, and ultimately did propel him down the path of what he probably saw as going jihad. It's that kind of encounter, it's that kind of self-radicalization that is putting this event into the realm of terrorism, as opposed to the act of an individual madman.

ROBERTS: And do you, Brian, have confidence that this Pentagon investigation will uncover exactly what happened, connect the dots here and take appropriate steps to minimize the chance of something like this will ever happen again?

JENKINS: I think it will lead -- first of all, there are several inquiries going on. The Pentagon inquiry, those criminal investigation, a Senate inquiry into this. And I think we put all those together, we'll have a very good idea at the end of Hasan's motives, of his preparations, of his ultimate objectives in this particular case. Whether it will prevent future events, that is somewhat more problematical.

I mean, we don't have x-rays for a man's soul. So it's very, very difficult in many cases to predict human behavior. When we're talking about lone gunmen, like Major Hasan, a lot of the journey they take into extremism is an interior one and it doesn't always have all of the external signs that we're going to look for.

ROBERTS: No x-rays for a man's soul. Well put. Brian Jenkins for us this morning. Brian, thanks so much. Good to see you.

JENKINS: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Twenty and a half minutes now after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Twenty-two minutes past the hour. It's been more than nine months since President Obama signed the $787 billion stimulus bill that was supposed to savor or create 3.5 million jobs. The big question though in Washington is how many jobs has it really created or saved?

Our Kate Bolduan is live at the White House. And, Kate, the government watchdog group overseeing the economic stimulus spending essentially is saying the administration's claims on these numbers cannot be trusted.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Kiran. The government's stimulus watchdog and chief auditor agree that the latest stimulus data is a good first step in better and more government transparency and accountability, but they also say there are significant problems with the numbers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN (voice-over): Vice President Biden confidently counting stimulus success down to the single job.

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When it is posted today, it will show that we have created or saved 640,000 -- 640,239 jobs, directly as a consequence of contracting authority of the federal government.

BOLDUAN: That was October 30th. Fast forward three weeks.

EARL DEVANEY, HEAD OF THE GOVERNMENT WATCHDOG FOR THE STIMULUS PROGRAM: I think there's enough inaccuracies in here to question the 640 number that might go down.

CHO: Earl Devaney, head of the government watchdog for the $787 billion stimulus program which runs recovery.gov, acknowledges stimulus data is riddled with errors and inaccuracies, including reports of stimulus jobs in congressional districts that don't exist.

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: There is some $1.2 million that went to the fourth congressional district of Utah. We only have three congressional districts.

BOLDUAN: A new report from the Government Accountability Office finds more troubling figures. More than 58,000 jobs created or saved from projects where no money has yet been spent. $965 million spent on projects reporting zero jobs created or saved, and an estimated 10 percent of stimulus recipients have failed to report back. Republicans seized the opportunity in a House hearing to call the Obama administration's claims nothing but propaganda.

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: The whole jobs created/saved matrix is not only troubled, it is entirely deceitful. No government agency, private sector group or research economists has any idea what the reliable calculation track for these numbers would be.

BOLDUAN (on camera): Why the problems? One reason cited by government auditors is confusing reporting guidelines. Right here on recovery.gov, the head start program in Randolph County, Georgia was awarded $61,000 and reported 26 jobs. We checked it out. The director said that went to pay cost of living raises for 26 people. It didn't create jobs.

(voice-over): Both Republicans and Democrats praised the unprecedented attempt at transparency with the recovery Web site. The no-nonsense Earl Devaney suggests with the good comes the bad.

DEVANEY: I believe that the principal downside of transparency is embarrassment, and there is enough of that here to go all around.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: Now the White House is pushing back, firing back on critics. Ed DeSeve, he's a special adviser to the president on the Recovery Act, he calls the, quote, "data debate" frustrating and a sideshow. He says the focus should be more on the success of creating jobs, not on the precision of how they are counted.

Meanwhile, Kiran, in another very important story that we've all been talking about for weeks now, Afghanistan. A senior administration official confirms to me this morning that the president, the Obama administration will not make that announcement on the new comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan until after Thanksgiving.

CHETRY: All right. We'll have to wait on that one then. Thanks so much. Kate Bolduan for us this morning. Appreciate it.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Kiran.

CHETRY: It's 25 minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: The Evolution leads right up to Kirk Cameron. How about that? '80s teen idol.

Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Well, he was a former teen idol. Kirk Cameron, now he's on a crusade to debunk evolution.

ROBERTS: He's now a born-again Christian and part of a group that wrote a new 50-page introduction to Darwin's manifesto to celebrate its 150th anniversary. He's hoping that college kids add it to their list of things to read on winter break.

Our Carol Costello is live in Washington with more on this this morning. And, Carol, you've got a copy of the book with you.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I do have a copy of the book, and here it is. It looks just like, you know, a normal copy of Charles Darwin's book, and it has this special introduction that kind of looks like it's just part of the book.

Creationists, awarded by court ruling that creationism cannot be taught at most schools, have come up with this new tactic. They're using Charles Darwin's classic with addition. Cameron's ministry says it handed out 170,000 copies of "On the Origin of Species" at 100 universities across the country. The question is, will it work?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you like a book?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't pass up a free book. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There you go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.

COSTELLO (voice-over): Volunteers from the Living Waters Ministry hope to pass out thousands of copies of Charles Darwin's "On the Origin of Species" at universities across the country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why are you so passionate about this?

DEBRA MEHAFFEY, LIVING WATERS MINISTRY VOLUNTEER: Because it matters -- it impacts a person's internal destiny.

COSTELLO: They're not passing out Darwin's book as he wrote it, but with an introduction disputing evolution. On Living Waters Web site, Kirk Cameron explains it this way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FROM LIVINGWATERS.COM)

KIRK CAMERON, ACTOR: An entire generation is being brainwashed by atheistic evolution without even hearing the alternative.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO (voice-over): Cameron, along with Living Waters founder Ray Comfort, are determined students learn about creationism. The belief that god created man so that added a 50-page introduction to Darwin's book, alleging among other things Adolf Hitler's "undeniable connection to evolutionary theory," Darwin's racism and his "disdain for women."

RAY COMFORT, PRO-CREATIONIST AUTHOR: All I want to do is confront young people to think about what they believe. And realize that obviously, there had to be an initial cause. We believe in the free exchange of ideas, and those who are open hearted will appreciate what we've done.

COSTELLO: Their effort to discredit Darwin hasn't exactly been smooth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm afraid on that basis I can't accept your book.

COSTELLO: But that's not to say professors across the country want Cameron's group thrown off campus.

Professor Kenneth Miller teaches biology at Brown. He is also devout Catholic.

PROF. KENNETH MILLER, BROWN UNIVERSITY: It's something I want my students to get a hold of and tear apart.

COSTELLO: Not literally, but intellectually. Miller said the introduction is mostly filled with propaganda and personal attacks.

MILLER: I think one of the (INAUDIBLE) things about this introduction is to imply that Darwin was a racist and a sexist, that he was responsible, for example, for the Nazi ideology that led to the Holocaust and so forth. This is absolute nonsense.

COSTELLO: And he says no one's soul will be lost because they believe in Darwin's science-based discovery. The Catholic Church believes that god created the universe and the science of evolution explained how he did it. Kirk Cameron would not talk to us on camera about his efforts, but he did send us pictures.

CAMERON: One, two, three, Darwin.

COSTELLO: That's him at UCLA, handing out his version of "Origin of the Species."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: And a couple of people did ask for his autograph as well. If you're wondering if it's legal to add your own introduction to an existing book, it is. Darwin's book has been around for what, 150 years. So it is in the public domain. And that means, you can add an addition like an introduction. John.

ROBERTS: Fascinating story. Carol Costello for us with that this morning. Carol, thanks so much.

Checking our top stories now as we cross the half hour. Americans are passing the blame for the worst recession since the Depression. According to a new CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll, 38 percent blame Republicans for the economic crisis. That's down 15 points from May. On the other hand, 27 percent blame the democrats. That's a rise of six points. About a quarter of those polled say both parties are responsible.

When a patient comes in for a tummy tuck, the government may soon take its pound of flesh. Senate Democrats are proposing to tax elective cosmetic surgery to help pay for their health care overhaul. The White House and Senate Democrats proposing a new five percent tax on popular cosmetic procedures like abdominoplasty, Botox, and breast implants.

The so-called bo-tax is estimated to raise $5 billion over a decade. Not surprisingly, drug companies and cosmetic surgeons are trying to nip the proposal in the bud.

Many students in California looking at more loans, maybe a second or third job now. The University of California Board of Regents voted to increase basic education fees for undergrads by a third, to more than $10,000 next year. Hundreds of students staged a sit-in outside the meeting, calling it the death of public education. The new tuition fees kick in next fall. The school's president says it will not apply to families earning less than $70,000.

CHETRY: All right. Thanks, John.

With the state facing a $21 billion deficit, one of next year's toughest political races is shaping up in California. Carl Fiorina is a former CEO of Hewlett-Packard. She is also an economic adviser for John McCain's presidential campaign and she's hoping to take on Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer and win her Senate seat.

She says her business experience makes her the only viable GOP candidate. But some in her own party are already questioning her conservative credentials. Carly Fiorina joins me now this morning. Great to see you.

CARLY FIORINA, REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE FOR U.S. SENATE FROM CALIFORNIA: Great to be with you. Thanks for having me.

CHETRY: For people wondering, you know, you have a different hairdo this time. It's because you have just finished a very long, arduous battle with breast cancer. A successful one at that. Tell us what happened.

FIORINA: Well, you know, I have finished it. I kind of look like a rock star maybe. But this is what happens when you go through many months of chemotherapy. I found my own lump two weeks after a clear mammogram and I must tell you I was so horrified by this government task force recommendation, because in my own case, had I not been trained in self-exam, had I not found my own lump, and had I then waited two years for my next mammogram, I'm not sure I would be here.

So, my message to all the women out there is do your self-exams and get regular mammograms. I'm sure it saved my life.

CHETRY: There were a lot of questions about this. Because you fall into the category, over 50 category, but they still said self- exam should not be something that doctors teach patients necessarily, because they are not very helpful. In your case, that's what eventually alerted to you in getting another mammogram.

FIORINA: Absolutely.

CHETRY: And, secondly, the recommendation to go instead of every year, every other year would have be fine. you're saying, if you waited another year after that clear mammogram, you probably would have not survived.

FIORINA: Exactly. And breast cancer is one of the most curable cancers there is. The cure rate is now almost 95 percent, and that's thanks to so much early detection and how much they know about the disease. And so, oh, gosh, let's not take a step backward here. Let's help women save their own lives.

CHETRY: One of the things pointed to, this task force pointed to is the fact that there are a lot of false positives. In some cases, women get extra -- get extra treatments, biopsies, perhaps, that turn out to be unnecessary. Is this a step toward rationing? Meaning is part of the study the fact that, yes, they would save billions of dollars if women waited 10 more years?

FIORINA: You know, I think this is why people get very nervous about it. OK, so there are some false positives. It's what happened when you look at patients as nameless, faceless bodies on a stat (ph) chart instead of thinking of a woman and her life.

If I had something irregular, I would want a biopsy to give me peace of mind. And I think that's why so many women are concern and yes, I think it causes people to say, whew, is this what government- run health care is about? Is this what rationing health care is about? We should be focusing on quality of patient care, both prevention and detection.

CHETRY: You're not for any of the bills right now in the Senate or the House on health care reform?

FIORINA: I am not. I am for health care reform, but the bills before the House and Senate right now don't solve the fundamental problems, and it leads to potentially more problems like rationing of care. CHETRY: But what I want to ask is, you said, you know, is viewing people as nameless, faceless, the Democrats argues that that's what's happening now. That it's OK. That as a country, we're OK with so many people are falling through the cracks either by having pre- existing conditions, and not being able to be covered in private insurance or the fact that there are so many uninsured that basically have the emergency room as their only preventative or, you know, after the fact health care. So how do you solve that problem if not through some sort of universal coverage?

FIORINA: Well, we should solve that problem, and the pre- existing condition problem affects women more than any other group, either because of pregnancy or whatever, and that's wrong. But let's instead of boiling the ocean, let's focus on that particular problem. Let's make sure that insurance companies cannot throw people off for pre-existing conditions.

Let's subsidize them, if necessary, to do it. Let's give women a choice of any insurance plan from anywhere in the country they want. Let's do medical malpractice reform. But no one has been able to convince me that a government-run insurance program solves any of the problems we're trying to solve. And beyond that, I think no one...

CHETRY: There was an insurance option that many seniors cling to and say is good.

FIORINA: Well, that's right. And I'm not saying we should throw that away, but I also believe that when you tell the American people we're all of a sudden going to save $500 billion out of Medicare, even though the cost of Medicare has never gone down in its history? But suddenly we're going to save $500 billion to pay for this. People just don't buy it. The numbers don't add. Let's go on and focus on the specific problem we're trying to solve.

CHETRY: And I want to ask you about the Senate race right now. Because as we saw in the mid-term election that took place, the special seat in the 23rd Congressional district in New York, the Republican candidate ended up not being for some conservatives, conservative enough and a lot of well-known conservatives like Sarah Palin threw and Rush Limbaugh and others threw their name behind instead the third-party candidate.

In your situation, California is a tricky state for a Republican. It's a largely Democrat state. You have to be conservative enough to get the nomination, but then show that you're in the middle to actually win the seat. How are you planning to do that? How are you planning to show that you have enough conservative credentials that conservative GOP members can vote for you in the primary.

FIORINA: Well I think I have already demonstrated that adequately to a lot of people through the endorsements that I've gained. But unfortunately the New York 23 case, as unfortunate as it was has nothing to do with my case. I'm a fiscal conservative. I signed the American taxpayer pledge the day I announced. I have been publicly pro-life. Someone who believes that life begins at conception for many years. The New York 23 case was a situation where a bunch of insiders picked a candidate and didn't let the voters pick the candidate and voters are supposed to do this. So I think it's a question of making sure that Californians know who I am, but I also think importantly that Californians right now, the most important issue on their mind is jobs.

And the next most important issue on their mind is how to control federal government spending. So what they want to talk about are actually subjects that I can speak with credibility to them about. How do you create jobs? And how do you get out of control spending under control.

CHETRY: You know, and one of the big things that is also a huge issue out there is the budget gap that we talked about in California right now. $20 billion, you're facing a crippling debt and if you end up challenging Barbara Boxer, who is the incumbent Democrat, she is going to go after you as she has before about your time as CEO of Hewlett-Packard.

Here's what her campaign said "California needs a senator who is going to fight to create jobs, not write of 28,000 workers and ship jobs overseas." She's saying that your experience at Hewlett-Packard doesn't bode well for creating jobs in California. What do you say?

FIORINA: Well, I counter with the facts. I spent six years as the CEO of HP. I managed the company through the worst technology recession in 25 years. I was a net-net job creator at the end of my time. Yes, sometimes tough times call for tough choices but in addition to creating jobs, we also tripled the rate of invasion, quintupled our cash flow, doubled the size of the company from 45 billion to 90 billion. Improved profitability across every product line, created market-leading positions in every category in which we competed. I will stand on my track record of accomplishments.

CHETRY: But jobs dropped 60 percent at that time.

FIORINA: Well so did the entire technology index and in fact, our stock outperformed the technology peer index by 22 percent. It was a tough time in the technology industry.

CHETRY: Well, good luck in the Senate race.

FIORINA: Thank you.

CHETRY: You know, thanks for joining us and talking candidly about your personal experience with breast cancer as well. A lot of confusion out there for women. And we have been trying our best to cover it and to give people the facts over these past few days since these recommendations came out.

FIORINA: Well, it's my pleasure and let me just say again to all the women out there, continue to do your self-exams and get regular mammograms. It saved my life.

CHETRY: All right. Carly Fiorina, great to have you with us today, this morning. Thanks.

FIORINA: Nice to be with you.

CHETRY: John.

ROBERTS: Well, when you think Tim McGraw, do you think of your favorite song? Well as Christine Romans says, think new business opportunities. Christine goes one-on-one with Tim McGraw, coming up next in the most news in the morning. It's 42 minutes after the hour.

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ROBERTS: Welcome back to Most News in the Morning. If you are a fan of country megastar Tim McGraw, you are in luck, because you'll be seeing a lot more of him.

CHETRY: Yes. His new album is number four right now on Billboard's country chart. He is in a new movie with Sandra Bullock and oh yes, he was also just named one of "People" Magazine's sexiest men alive.

Here to attest to that -- just kidding. Christine Romans (INAUDIBLE) catch up sooner or later. He's a great guy.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: He really is. And brand McGraw is getting a reboot. Fifteen years after his first smash, McGraw has a new album, a new movie with Sandra Bullock, new management. The people behind Dave Matthews Band and Phish.

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ROMANS (voice-over): This southern voice is just getting started. Country music star Tim McGraw has sold 40 million records.

(on camera): Are you pressing the reset button to try and broaden out bigger audience and a new Tim McGraw for next year and beyond?

TIM MCGRAW, GRAMMY-AWARD WINNING COUNTRY MUSIC STAR: I don't know if it's a reset button as much as it is just an advancement button. You know, it's just time to take this level -- we've laid a tremendous platform, and it's time to sort of expand from that platform.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Black kid up in the corner.

ROMANS (voice-over): And that platform includes his biggest movie yet. A starring role opposite Sandra Bullock in the movie "The Blindside."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're right.

MCGRAW: Excuse me? You're right? How did those words taste coming out of your mouth?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like vinegar.

SANDRA BULLOCK, ACTRESS: He already has a well-established career and he doesn't need to butt into ours, but guess what, he's going to and he does it so beautifully.

ROMANS: For 16 years, you have been on top of the world in country music. Now you're stretching. You're Tim McGraw, the grownup, trying new...

MCGRAW: Grown up? I don't know...

ROMANS: Well...

MCGRAW: My wife would probably beg to differ with that.

ROMANS (voice-over): That would be wife, singer Faith Hill. Their 2006 tour was the best-selling country music tour ever.

But he is stretching, like this unexpected collaboration with hard rock group Def Leppard.

MCGRAW: I like either stuff that's -- I like cotton candy or I like the, you know, if you want to go jump off a building. You know? Stuff in between just doesn't move me that much.

ROMANS: He's moving in a new direction, under the management of the people behind Dave Matthews Band and Phish. And he's keen on a new, savvy digital audience, online and sampling new sounds.

MCGRAW: You know, that's part of -- of having new management and -- and sort of a fresh kind of go at it is -- is to have all of those things that I don't know how to do.

ROMANS (on camera): But Tim McGraw for the next 15 years, how is he going to be different from the Tim McGraw that sold 40 million -- what, 40 million records?

MCGRAW: Yes. Hopefully 40 million more records. That would be nice.

ROMANS (voice-over): Until then, he's one of "People Magazine's" Sexiest Men Alive, with a new album, new movie and a new tour in February.

MCGRAW: I think that -- it's all of a sudden you sort of reached this plateau, then you can see other -- other places to go to. For so long you looked at this -- this peak that you think you want to get to, and then when you get to that peak you realize that it's just the first peak of many peaks to come.

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ROMANS: And that's the title track from his new album "Southern Voice." McGraw says that, you know, he wouldn't quit his day job. He's excited for the "Southern Voice" tour beginning in February, he's excited about the movie. He says the tour is going to be unlike anything he's ever done before. He starts filming a movie with Gwyneth Paltrow at the beginning of the year.

Look, McGraw -- he doesn't have to re-invent himself. He's already on top, right? But he says sometimes you have to get uncomfortable to get better, and that's what he's doing right now.

ROBERTS: How did he make the transition between music and acting? Did he take acting classes or did he just have a natural affinity for it?

ROMANS: He really likes it. He was in "Friday Night Lights" a few years ago. This is his fourth movie. He's slowly taking on bigger and bigger and bigger roles, and he's gotten a little better every time. I mean, this is, really his biggest role here right now, but he says he -- he does music best. That's what he says -- that's his best thing.

He wouldn't quit his day job, but he wants to do more movies. He'd like to do a movie with his wife someday, he said. He thought that would be an awful lot of fun. But in the meantime, Gwyneth Paltrow is going to stand in in the next one.

ROBERTS: She'll play the part of Faith Hill.

CHETRY: That's right. Maybe.

ROBERTS: Christine, great report. Thanks.

And there was just too much stuff that Christine has to fit into one report, so you can see a whole lot more, including behind the scenes photos. Read Christine's blog at cnn.com/amfix.

CHETRY: All right. And now we had -- we talked about all of the uproar and the furor over the new breast cancer and mammogram guidelines. Well, now there are new recommendations coming up for cervical cancer screenings as well. We'll explain. We'll tell you what they are, coming up.

Forty-nine -- 48 minutes past the hour.

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ROBERTS: Good morning, New York City, where it's cloudy, 57 degrees right now. Later on today, the showers are going to hang around for a little while, although it does look like it's beginning to clear out. A high of 61 degrees today for the Big Apple.

CHETRY: Remember 10-year-old Will Phillips, the Arkansas fifth grader who is refusing to say the pledge of allegiance until liberty or justice for all includes equal rights for gays and lesbians? Well, we have interviewed him on Monday, and last night "The Daily Show" picked up on it. Jon Stewart has recruited some muscle to help Will out at school, pro-wrestler Mick Foley.

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JON STEWART, TALK SHOW HOST: This is a very valuable child. This child must be protected. Foley! Ladies and gentlemen, Mick Foley!

MICK FOLEY, PROFESSIONAL WRESTLER: Thank you, Jon. Like a lot of my professional wrestling brethren, I was touched by young Will's plight. So I'll tell you what I'm going to do.

If I find out that anybody has hassled this young man or teased him or called him a wad of any sort, I and perhaps a few of my friends will come to his school and bring a world of pain. Teachers, faculty, students -- beware! Because the eyes of the Mick Foley are upon you! Misery will be yours! (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: I'm not quite sure that Jon Stewart in a feather boa is as threatening, but Mick Foley -- every kid who's being bullied needs a Mick Foley just to hang around.

ROBERTS: Absolutely. Wouldn't it have been nice to have a Mick Foley? Didn't even have a Mick Foley action figure when I was a kid. So Will's in good hands.

CHETRY: Well, this morning's top stories, just two minutes away, including Oprah's surprise. She's she calling it quits. Plus, is it the Grinch to blame or the United States Postal Service blocking Dear Santa letters, but some elves are working their very best to try to save Christmas.

ROBERTS: And the cost of prescription drugs is soaring. Dr. Sanjay Gupta will show us some tricks on how to get them cheap.

All that and more at the top of the hour, right here on the Most News in the Morning.

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CHETRY: Fifty-six minutes pasts the hour.

First came the controversial guidelines on breast cancer screenings. Well, now the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has some new recommendations for cervical cancer screenings.

We're paging our Dr. Gupta for answers this morning. So now we're talking about changes to another screening test when it comes to women and cancer. Why the changes?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's like cancer screening week here at AMERICAN MORNING. There are changes that happen in guidelines from time to time, people review new data, they look at the evidence that's being presented, and they make some decisions based on that. This time, as you mentioned, coming out of what is known as ACOG, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. This is about a 50,000 member organization, mainly made up of clinicians, who -- who make these sorts of decisions.

The last time they did this with regard to cervical cancer was back in 2003, and at that time, the recommendation specifically with regard to Pap smear where they should happen either about three -- three within three years after the first sexual intercourse or by age 21, whichever happens first. That was the 2003 recommendations.

What they're simply saying now is the first cervical cancer screening should happen at 21 and then every two years between the ages of 21 and 29. So -- and then -- and then you can go to three years after the age of 30.

This is, again, you know, sort of these guidelines that happen from time to time, but -- but this is somewhat different from the mammography screening that we've been talking about so much this week for a couple of reasons. One is that when it comes to cervical cancer, it tends to be a very slow-moving cancer, unlike with breast cancer which can double -- breast cancer can double in size every several months, so if you wait an extra year or you wait too long, you can really truly miss a breast cancer, whereas with cervical cancer, it tends to grow much more slowly.

And they find that the evidence, when they've looked at this evidence, it really didn't make a difference if a woman started before the age of 21 or got her cervical cancer screenings every two years instead of one.

CHETRY: All right. So it looks like we're probably not going to then expect the same reaction to changes that we saw when the mammogram recommendations came out this week?

GUPTA: I don't think so. You know, we -- we haven't -- we haven't heard official weigh-in from some of the cancer societies yet and some of the other organizations, but I don't expect that to -- to happen.

A couple of ways to think about this, getting a yearly Pap smear is sort of like getting a mammogram every four months, based on the way that these -- these types of cancers grow. Also, if you sort of distill everything down with regard to the mammogram controversy, when they looked at that population of women between the ages of 40 and 49, they said, as part of the recommendations, this test saves lives, just not enough of them, and that's -- that's where I think so much of this controversy was.

With regard to cervical cancer, they're just saying, look, this is a slow-moving cancer, it grows over 10 to 20 years. If you wait until 21 and you get screens every two years after that, it's probably not going to make a difference.

CHETRY: All right. Sanjay Gupta breaking it down for us this morning. Thanks. GUPTA: Thanks, Kiran.